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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Spaghetti and Meatballs

I got a pasta machine this weekend and have been waiting to break it out ever since.  We plan to have some friends over this weekend and my menu plan includes sun dried tomato ravioli made using our newest kitchen addition.  I figured I shouldn't break out the pasta machine for the first time with company over for dinner and, underestimating the time required to make one's first batch of homemade pasta, I arrived home from work and embarked upon creating my own thin spaghetti noodles to eat with homemade meatballs and marinara sauce.

My first attempt at putting together the pasta dough went horribly awry and I found myself on the verge of a tantrum as a wave of unbeaten egg took out the flour retaining wall and sent the whole thing cascading off the cutting board, onto the counter and overboard onto the floor.  When I finally got the dough together (in the safe confines of a mixing bowl) it was too wet for the pasta machine to cut.  After several rounds of defeat, I produced homemade noodles.  Alas, they're still a work in progress and I would be remiss to attempt to offer any instruction regarding their preparation.  The sauce and meatballs, on the other hand, are excellent.  A few bites into my dinner I all but forgot about the reasons dinner didn't hit the table until nearly ten.

You'll Need:

2 pounds ground beef (the "meatloaf" mix sold at many grocery stores is also good for this recipe)
1 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
2 Tb chopped flat leaf parsley (or 2 tsp dry parsley)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese*
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg, beaten
Olive oil

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium sized yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine**
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

*The Parmesan cheese is a large flavor component of these meatballs.  The more flavorful the Parmesan cheese the more flavorful the meatballs will be.
**I don't believe in cooking with expensive wine, but I do believe in cooking with wine you'd be willing to drink.

Getting Started:

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small bowl lightly beat egg with a fork.

In a large mixing bowl combine all meatball ingredients except the olive oil and mix together using a large wooden spoon or your hands if you're feeling adventurous.  Mix together until ingredients are evenly distributed but the mixture is not entirely homogeneous.  Overmixing the ingredients will cause the meatballs to be tough.

Using a light touch, press mixture together into 1 1/2" balls and set on the prepared baking sheet.

Now You're Cookin':

In a large pot or dutch oven heat 1/2" of olive oil over medium-high heat until oil begins to shimmer.  

Place meatballs in the pan.  Meatballs can be close together but must be in a single-layer.

Cook meatballs for about 10 minutes turning 3 times (approximately every 3 minutes) to ensure even browning.

Remove meatballs from the dutch oven and set on paper towels to drain.

Drain the oil from the pan (but do not scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan) and return pan to the stove.

Add 1 Tb olive oil to the pan.

Once the oil has heated up add the onions and cook until translucent stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook an additional minute.

Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, salt, and pepper.

Return the meatballs to the sauce, partially cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. 

Serve with spaghetti and Parmesan cheese.

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